Photo by Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP
Although June is traditionally observed as the month of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and we as Daughters of Saint Paul have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart, Blessed James Alberione encouraged us to also consider June the month of Saint Paul, since the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is celebrated tomorrow (June 29), and then the Feast of St. Paul for the Pauline Family is celebrated on June 30.
This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how certain themes keep running through my writing—even when I don’t intend them to be there. The main theme that keeps showing up—even unintentionally—is God’s love for us. Partly this is because I continually realize anew how much I need to grow in trust in God’s love for me, which means that I often focus on God’s love for me in my prayer and meditations. But also, I’ve been realizing that many people in our society allow unprocessed feelings to guide their decisions—sometimes even unknowingly—which often leads to poor decisions and unhappiness. Sometimes people are in so much pain from broken relationships that they need healing on all levels—including healing of their feelings. For me, the remedy to healing our feelings is twofold: 1) knowing God’s love for us and 2) falling in love with God.
As a society, we have a familiar catch-phrase: “do whatever feels good.” But allowing our feelings to always rule us leads us down a self-centered and earthly-based path that can actually become a prison of unhappiness. We are made for so much more than bodily pleasures, which don’t last.
Denying that we have certain feelings—especially the ones we consider negative or uncomfortable—gives them the power to influence us in ways that we are not aware of. Once again we become trapped by our feelings, but this time we don’t even know we are imprisoned.
The Pauline spirituality, which can be summed up in Saint Paul’s famous phrase, “Christ lives in me,” means that all the aspects of our person—mind, will, heart, body, strength—are to be completely dedicated to Christ to the point that we are in Christ, that our entire person is sanctified by Christ. That includes our feelings.
Our Founder Blessed James Alberione encouraged us: “Prayer should also involve our feelings.” In another place, he says:
“Charity is the virtue that leads to the greatest holiness. In fact, it unites the whole person to God: mind, will, feelings. It transforms the soul in God; establishes an intimate friendship with him; multiplies the person’s zeal and energy: “for love is as strong as death” (Sg. 8:6)… The same struggle takes place in every Christian: it is a struggle between Jesus Christ and our whole human nature, which battle each other, competing for the person’s heart. Jesus Christ wants the whole person: mind, will, and feelings.”
And I realize that, as much as I’ve tried to bring my feelings to Christ to be sanctified, I still need more healing in this! This month especially, I’ve been praying to Saint Paul as the Apostle of love. (Saint Paul can be called the apostle of love for so many reasons, but if you have any doubts, read 1 Corinthians 13. Also, St. John Chrysostom said about Saint Paul: “The heart of Paul is the heart of Christ.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if that could be said about us? About every follower of Christ?)
I became a Daughter of Saint Paul so that my whole life could be about love. Now, I would describe this desire this way: I want my whole life to be a hymn of love to Christ—a hymn made up of tiny individual notes, tiny acts of love. Every moment, I have an opportunity to choose to act out of love; at this moment, that includes every letter I type and every breath I take. So I’ve been praying to Saint Paul to help me to truly be an apostle of Christ’s love, as he is.
In this image of Saint Paul commissioned by Blessed James Alberione, Saint Paul has a hand over his heart, to symbolize the great fire of love in his heart that impelled him to spread the Good News of God’s saving love for us—Christ crucified and risen—throughout the then known world. Saint Paul, Apostle of Love, pray for us!